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 Swing Out Sister

 Swing Out Sister

 Swing Out Sister

How did this new album and overall concept for it come about, and what are your ultimate goals with it?

CORINNE : We don't usually have a concept- that usually materialises after we have finished recording. I suppose you could say the concept was making something positive out of a natural disaster! This album came about due to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Ejafyallajokull…We had picked some of our favourite songs and rearranged them specially for an American tour which was cancelled because of the giant volcanic ash cloud that grounded all European flights. We were so ready to perform these songs live we decided to record them. We used these recordings as the starting point for this album, adding further arrangements in the mix.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of recording a new album?

CORINNE : Getting started - then deciding when it's finished! You can have all sorts of ideas in your head, but making sense of them is the tricky part. Andy and I don't always agree on how a song should sound, but that's where the interesting bits happen. We are also very lucky to have a great band to work with. They are prepared to contribute and realise ideas, even if they may sometimes seem impossible.

What elements do you look for in a song that makes it especially satisfying for you to perform?

CORINNE : There has to be a groove, a great melody…and an element of surprise. I suppose something to take you out of your comfort zone… then you can always find your way back with some great vocal harmonies and horn and string arrangements. And it's great if there is something a bit cheeky in there….

People often ask if I ever get tired of performing Breakout, which I suppose is our best known song, but we always add something new so it's like singing a new song.

Of your touring and gigs so far in your career, do any stand out as being particularly memorable or defining moments?

CORINNE : We played at CapitalJazzFest in Baltimore a few years ago. It was great to perform alongside some inspirational artists - George Duke, Rahsaan Patterson, Angie Stone, En Vogue, Caron Wheeler - and to see so many people out to enjoy the music. It had been raining but still people showed up- along with their barbecues, determined to have a good time. I remember singing Stoned Soul Picnic and the sun came out!

Last year we played big band arrangements of our songs at JavaJazz festival in Jakarta on the same stage as Stevie Wonder and Bobby McFerrin…..that was mind-blowing! We watched Stevie play from backstage. I cried my eyes out! As a young girl singing along to his records this would have been beyond my wildest dreams….

Who would you say has been the single biggest influence in your life in getting you to where you are now in your career?

CORINNE : Andy Connell! I had wanted to be a singer side I was three years old - but got sidetracked along the way. I met Andy when I was doing a gig/ audition with another band. I didn't get their approval as I was quite nervous and did a crap performance - but Andy recognised I had potential. Well he did study philosophy before joining a band…. Andy writes such inspirational music to write words to. I usually just listen to the music and sing what it suggests. We are both very stubborn…sometimes a hindrance, sometimes a help….it can create a few musical arguments. If it wasn't for our producer Paul O'Duffy we might not have got anything done. He is a great mediator- as well as being quite antagonistic… whatever it takes to finish the song.

If you were to choose to learn a new instrument that you’ve never played before, what instrument might that be?

ANDY : I'm a piano player, and I think that, in terms of writing and harmony, that's the best instrument one can possibly master, in the sense that all of the notes, all of the colours and possibilities of the orchestra, are laid out on the keys in plain sight. That being said, I've always wanted to learn to play the accordion. Not a fashionable instrument, I know, but a lot of the people I've been most inspired by have played, or used, the accordion in their music. I'm thinking particularly of Joe Zawinul and Hermeto Pascoal, and even Burt Bacharach has used it in his music to great effect.

I recall a great explanation from Zawinul about how he learned how to entertain a crowd by playing accordion at local dances as a boy in Austria, and later on, when he'd achieved fame with Weather Report, he explained that his early experience with the accordion led him to play synthesisers in a more organic way, because his phrasing still took into account the limitations of the bellows and thus made his lines have a more human 'breath', and these pauses would allow his melodies to sing more naturally.

What’s your absolute favorite part of the World, and why?

ANDY : Tokyo. It’s a place of complete contrasts. You can ride on the fastest train in the world and then spend two hours watching someone make tea. You can eat, in the same restaurant, a hundred-year-old egg and a prawn that, given the right medical attention, could probably still just about pull through. Given the size of the population and the lack of space, good manners are paramount, all emotions are sublimated and guilt is everywhere – just the kind of environment to make a good northern Catholic boy feel at home.

What question do you wish someone would ask you that has never been asked of you in an interview? And your answer?

Q: Fancy a beer?
A: Oh, go on then..

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